WWE Clash of Champions 2016 Winners: Biggest Stars of the Night
Clash of Champions had a lot to live up to on Sunday night.
Raw has been losing the weekly wars to SmackDown, and the buildup to this pay-per-view had been, shall we say, less than spectacular. There was that embarrassing Old Day comedy skit that made the entire WWE Universe cringe. And then last week, WWE Creative completely botched the debut of the cruiserweight division.
But as we've seen from recent history, a bad buildup does not always affect the culminating show. On Sunday, the Raw roster went out at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and gave the fans the best of what the red brand had to offer.
Who stole the show?
Here are the biggest stars of the evening, those who shined brightest on the big stage.
OK, so The New Day didn't drop the titles tonight (again). But The Club did show why it needs to win them soon.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have been mired in comedy skits for far too long, first with those weird doctor sketches and then with that awful Old Day nonsense. On Sunday, Gallows and Anderson did what they do best: They brawled in a brutal, stiff fashion, which is what they should have been doing since the very beginning of their pushes.
Perhaps now the casual fans who didn't know them from their work in Japan will take them more seriously, and the duo can clinch the titles when given another opportunity.
The cruiserweights had an uphill battle.
Brian Kendrick and T.J. Perkins went into this match with a one-day build on Raw, and anyone who didn't watch the cruiserweight brackets on the WWE Network were given very little reason to care about what happened here.
But the two of them did the best with what they had and delivered a solid match that was incredibly athletic and acrobatic.
And even though Perkins walked away with the win, the unsung, underrated hero here was Kendrick, who is doing his best work late in his career. Perkins does a lot of flippy, impressive-looking stuff, but Kendrick is more deliberate and psychological, giving weight and impact to his moves while maintaining a high speed.
He deserves a title run, not least of all because he's a veteran and can wrestle the slower WWE style with the new guys on the roster.
The rubber match between Sheamus and Cesaro was on its way to being the match of the evening until the silly no-contest finish; it's not really believable that a clothesline over the barrier is what incapacitated the two of them.
But still, Cesaro and Sheamus deserve all the credit in the world. They worked an incredible, physical, stiff match, certainly the best of the seven they've fought thus far. Cesaro is also reviving the dying art of long-term selling.
We're used to wrestlers selling injuries during matches, but rarely do those injuries carry over to multiple shows. Cesaro, on the other hand, has been selling his back injury for a month, and in subtle ways. When he locked in the Sharpshooter, for example, he could't lock it in all the way and grabbed his lower back in pain.
It's a small detail, but it matters, and it went a long way toward making the brutality so believable.
Jericho was solid; he's always solid.
He's 45 years old, and he's wrestling tough, aerial matches at a speed that men half his age could not handle. He's wrestling younger men at the same time that his Attitude Era contemporaries are being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
It would be easy to be upset at the result of this showdown, with a veteran going over a younger, up-and-coming talent. But because it's Jericho, it's fine.
He's no part-time wrestler; he's a relevant, experienced performer who deserves all the credit for doing this for so long and for making it believable.
Something new happened in this Triple Threat match: The women worked slowly.
And this was to the benefit of all three competitors involved. The fans could focus on the in-ring action without the constant mayhem. Everything was well-coordinated and well-timed, and there were lots of times when all three women were in the ring performing pin combinations. Usually, Triple Threats rely on one wrestler rolling out of the ring while the other two competitors fight.
Charlotte benefited the most from the slower pace and landed power moves that looked devastating instead of sloppy.
Despite being champion, she has been the least impressive of the Four Horsewomen since her move to the main roster. But in this match, despite being less technically skilled than her two opponents, she shined the brightest with a dominant, convincing win.
Expect slower matches and less spot-fests in the near future.
It's about time. Roman Reigns is the United States champion, which is exactly what he needs to be at this point in his career.
The main event push failed. Half the fans hate him. And this U.S. title run, which will probably be lengthy, takes him out of universal title contention for a few months. He'll give the U.S. title some needed prestige and will fight competitors who are not named Seth Rollins for awhile.
There are some great potential feuds here, and with the spotlight off him, Reigns can get the in-ring and promo practice that he never got when his monster push first started.
There's definitely a place for Reigns in WWE, but not the way the company was doing it. Now is as good a time as any to hit the reset button instead of doing more of the same.
Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens
The build to the main event had a weird but compelling fathers-and-sons theme to it.
Kevin Owens, the new prodigal son, versus Seth Rollins, the rejected, cast-out son who's trying to regain the love of the figurative parents who disowned him.
In the end, WWE Creative didn't follow what should have been the obvious story route. Instead, Jericho interfered, which is a strange direction to go in; the Jericho bromance isn't nearly as compelling, and Triple H has been noticeably missing from TV for the past month.
But screwy ending aside, this showdown was terrific. What a wonderful, diverse match, full of technical precision and physical prowess. This is what happens when you get two men who both know how to work, put them in the ring together and let them do what they do best.